Today is Red Nose Day, Britain’s biggest charity telethon, organised by Comic Relief and the BBC. My kids have their red noses on, their hair dyed red and are off to school. Tonight we will all be watching TV, learning and laughing together.
It’s fashionable to dismiss the telethon as mainstream pap without a genuinely funny moment in it. But I think that’s blatantly untrue. It’s often a bit dull early evening to begin with but over the years it has featured some absolutely cracking stuff – especially as the evening winds on and the stars get steadily more intoxicated.
Tonight’s show promises Rowan Atkinson as the Archbishop Of Canterbury, reuniting Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand, French And Saunders, new Red Nose Day episodes of Call The Midwife and Fresh Meat. The return of David Brent. Oh and Matt Smith and David Tennant together for… something.
But before that, a look back at my favourite moments of Comic Relief over the years.
1986. Cliff Richard and The Young Ones sing Living Doll. The first Comic Relief record, featured the anarchic bad boys of comedy, all sex, swearing and violence, yet with lots of Cliff Richard references, performing alongside the squeaky clean born again Christian Cliff Richard, reprising one of his classic songs. It was bloody brilliant, and it set the stage for having comedians who parody celebrities appearing with the celebrity in question,
1997. Father Ted and Father Dougal host Comic Relief. This is just part one. It’s like your own extra forgotten episode of Father Ted.
1988. Blackadder: The Cavalier Years. An entire series compressed into one sketch.
I’ll make do with 2009’s Mitchell And Webb and Armstrong And Miller reprising the latter’s 1940s modern teenage fighter pilots…
But not on YouTube sadly is 2005’s Mitchell And Webb’s Table Of Reds with Chris De Burgh. Oh, it was good, even if the live studio audience hated it. Another trend… see also Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer in 1991. Not a clue from the audience, but it was wonderful.
Four years later in 1995, their style of comedy was a little more familiar and got slightly better response. Only slightly though.
The Mighty Boosh did a little better in 2007 by actually making sure there were fans of theirs in the audience during the more oblique bits.
2007 also gave us Ricky Gervais with “Pop A Tent Up,” the ultimate in effectively skewering the entire event, critcising the motives of those involved with Comic Relief and similar charity appeals. Brutal.
Also not on YouTube is Harry Enfield killing off the Loadsamoney, but we do have his Stavros in Hamlet with Jonathan Pryce from 1989.
In 2001, The Fast Show exploded the relationship of Ralph and Ted by inserting Robbie Williams.
In 1995, we had Dawn French in “that” dress snogging Hugh Grant. Though the lead up is the point.
But the French And Saunders sketch that most sticks in the mind is Sex from 1988.
From 1999, Steven Moffat’s first attempt at writing Doctor Who for the TV… in 2011, we’d get the in-continuity Time And Space.
One of the most hated sketches, though mostly in retrospect, was Catherine Tate and Tony Blair in 2005. But I still love it, and it retains the absolute shock and surprise of a that nation’s standing Prime Minister doing… this.
Donations. Of course there are donations. I have. You can go here.
Isn’t it though. Standard.
What are your favourites?